Last week several news agencies reported that a handful of Union Correctional Institution officials, including a major from Sanderson, were transferred in the wake of an investigation into the death of a prison inmate September 4.
Frank Smith, 44, died from injuries sustained in a confrontation with correctional officers transporting him back to the prison from a hospital. The inmate was nearing the end of a 16-year sentence for armed car-jacking, kidnapping and other crimes.
Maj. Philip Jefferson of Sanderson confirmed by phone the morning of October 5 he was transferred to Lawtey Correctional and was not in the transport vehicle when the confrontation occurred. He referred all other questions to the Florida Department of Corrections.
The department, according to news reports, announced the transfers of Mr. Jefferson, Union Correctional's warden Barry Reddish, two assistant wardens and a colonel October 4, the same day it confirmed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was investigating the inmate's death, specifically if officers used excessive force.
It's unclear, however, how the two developments are related.
FDOC spokeswoman Ann Howard said on October 8 she didn't know whether the transfers were connected to the investigation or not. She said 30 department personnel were reassigned or promoted last week for various reasons, but there were no demotions.
Ms. Howard also said that if the tranfers and investigation were related, she could not confirm such information because of the ongoing investigation.
After a press conference October 5 at the prison, FDOC released the following statement:
The Florida Department of Corrections announced today the preliminary findings of recent use of force incidents at Union Correctional Institution. The Department’s Inspector General opened several investigations involving both current and former employees.
Based on the information gathered at this point, Secretary Ken Tucker requested the Florida Department of Law Enforcement join the investigation and assume the lead role working in conjunction with the Department’s Office of the Inspector General.
Some staff members have been placed on administrative leave to ensure the integrity of the investigations. In addition, Secretary Tucker has made some immediate leadership changes at Union Correctional Institution, including the appointment of Warden Diane Andrews, a 30 year veteran of the Florida Department of Corrections.
“The mission of the Department is to ensure public safety, officer safety and inmate safety,” said Deputy Secretary Mike Crews. “We take this mission very seriously and we will not tolerate any actions by any members of this Agency contrary to that mission.”
At this time, the following employees have been placed on Administrative Leave pending the investigation:
· Assistant Warden Nan Jeffcoat
· Lieutenant Joseph Allen
· Sergeant Darryl Phillips
· Officer Kenneth Warren
· Officer David Brooks
These allegations do not represent the majority of correctional professionals who work in Florida’s prisons and do their jobs with the highest degree of professionalism under very difficult circumstances.